Question #4


11/20/02


period 1


With the work of Newton, the natural universe became a realm of law and regularity. Beliefs in spirits and divinities were no longer necessary to explain its operation. Thus, the Scientific Revolution liberated human beings from the fear of a chaotic or haphazard universe. Most of the scientists were very devout people. They saw in the new picture of physical nature a new picture also of God. The Creator of this rational, lawful nature must also be rational. To study nature was to come to a better understanding of that Creator. Science and religious faith were not only compatible but mutually supporting. As Newton wrote, “The main Business of Natural Philosophy is to argue from Phenomena without feigning Hypothesis, and to deduce Cause from Effects, till we come to the very first Cause, which certainly is not mechanical. This reconciliation of faith and science allowed the new physics and astronomy to spread rapidly. At the very time when Europeans were finally tiring of the wars or religion, the new science provided the basis for a view of God that might lead away from irrational disputes and wars over religious doctrine. Faith in a rational God encouraged faith in the rationality of human beings and in their capacity to improve their lot once liberated from the traditions of the past. The new science, however, caused some people to feel that the mystery had been driven from the universe and that the rational Creator was less loving and less near to humankind than the God of earlier ages.


To Galileo, the universe was rational; however, its rationality was not that of scholastic logic but of mathematics. He saw the regularity found in nature. He believed that the smallest atom behaved with the same mathematical precision as the largest sphere. A world of quantity was replacing one of qualities. All aspects of the world-including color, beauty, and taste- would increasingly be described in terms of the mathematical relationships among quantity. Nature was cold, rational, mathematical, and mechanistic.


Reason and faith are not always compatible, as shown by Galileo’s reconciliation of science with faith. Newton however, was able to make a compromise, applying science to nature and God. He made science and faith not only compatible but mutually supporting